In 2015, Viola Davis, an African-American, became the first black woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. And this is what she said when she got up on the stage to take that award;
“‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
Beautiful and poignant, isn’t it? Very aptly so, especially when you had to wait till 2015 for a woman of color to win an award first given in 1952. Yes, makes you think, doesn’t it? That not only is there bias, a huge one too, between opportunities provided to women as opposed to men but among women themselves.
But I’d like to alter her speech a little. Remove exactly three words from there. And what remains after that is something that is true for the women fraternity worldwide, across countries, race and color.
“‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful
whitewomen with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of colorfrom anyone else is opportunity.”
Don’t you agree?
The only thing that separates women from anyone else is what we call opportunity.
Now, this word opportunity reminds me of an incident that happened not too long ago. It was in October 2014 that I was promoted to lead my team. There were two of us in contention for the post. Me, a woman, and my colleague, a man. Of course, the decision was based solely on our performance; parameters defined by the organization which depended on performance. And since I managed to get ticks against more check boxes than him, I was given the promotion. That’s how it should have been and that's what happened.
Not only is there bias, a huge one too, between opportunities provided to women as opposed to men but among women themselves.
But a few days after that in a meeting my offshore manager told me this in front of that colleague of mine.
“I didn’t want to give you the promotion but I had to because it was decided in line with the organization’s rules for a promotion. If I had the chance, it would have gone to your colleague.”
Now, I don’t know what you think but in my mind, he shouldn’t have done that. He should either have not given me the promotion or else once given and rightly so, not demean me in front of my colleague with whom I still had to work. And that brings me to my next question.
Would this have happened if it were two men between whom he had to decide? Or, if my colleague would have been given the promotion?
So, you see, how hard it is, for women to go ahead even in organizations which have clearly outlined policies against gender bias? How hard it is for them to be given the opportunity to be something? And even when given the opportunity, there are still people who can’t quite stomach seeing women even hold, let alone do well in important positions?
This was only about me, a nobody. If Hillary Clinton, a woman vying for Presidency, in one of the world’s most powerful nation, is subjected to deliberate misogynist propaganda, how are the lives and conditions of women anywhere else any better?
So, this is the reason why we need to pledge for parity as is the theme for the International Women’s Day this year.
You might think it is only a symbolic gesture. Or, what would celebrating one day a year achieve? If you do, I don't blame you. I used to feel the same way, think of it as a charade. But you know, I feel differently now because, believe me, every single bit counts.
Making a huge noise, even if one day a year, counts. They are not going to listen to us if we don't badger them, lay stress on their eardrums.
And don’t for a moment believe that the bias only exists in our minds and it has almost been rooted out from the world. No.
As per the International Women’s Day website:
‘The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133.’
It means 117 years to gender parity.
Yes, we might need to wait till 2133 to see this dream turn into a reality. So, I urge you to make a pledge to do something about it. I know I have, to challenge conscious and conscious bias. I’m going to teach this to my daughter too, hand over the baton to the next generation. I wish you find ways to do the same. Do something, anything at all because we deserve it and it's high time it is done.
So, tell me, this women’s day will you #PledgeForParity?
A couple of bloggers at Write Tribe, which includes me, have decided to do something special this Women's Day. A few of us women have decided to write about women, for women on our blogs and thus, in our own little way add to the voice of change.
The next post goes out tomorrow at Richa Singh's blog. Don't forget to visit.